Brutal killing of Christian teen factory worker sparks widespread outrage in Pakistan

(Photo: CLASS)

In a tragic and horrifying incident that has sent shockwaves through Pakistan's Christian community, an 18-year-old Christian boy named Waqas Masih was brutally beaten to death by the Muslim owners and workers of a plastic bottle factory where he was employed in Lahore. Waqas's family says he was falsely accused of theft, which sparked the fatal attack on June 6 that has ignited furious outcry and demands for justice.

According to the heartbreaking account provided by Waqas's 55-year-old father, Salamat Masih, in a First Information Report (FIR) filed with police, both of his sons were employed at the plastic factory owned by Haji Saleem. On that fateful day around 3 pm, Salamat's younger son informed him that the factory owner Haji Saleem, his son Omer Saleem, and other workers – Shahzad, Bilal and Shani – had forcibly dragged Waqas into the factory after accusing him of theft. There, they severely beat the teenage boy until he was unconscious.

Acting urgently on the horrific news, Salamat Masih rushed to the factory along with his 12-year-old son Awais and other family members. What he witnessed there has left the impoverished Christian family utterly traumatized. Salamat found Waqas tied up and being viciously beaten with plastic pipes by the factory owner and his associates. Despite Salamat's desperate pleas for mercy, the enraged owner claimed Waqas was merely unconscious from the brutal beating. Tragically, by around 3 pm that day, 18-year-old Waqas had succumbed to his injuries.

The distraught family took Waqas's battered body to Mayo Hospital in Lahore for an autopsy before burying him the following day on 7 June. Salamat Masih and his wife Rubina, who live in dire poverty, have been left utterly devastated by the loss of their son Waqas, who they insist was innocent of any theft.

Awais, the young 12-year-old brother of Waqas who witnessed the sickening attack, has recounted the harrowing ordeal. He described how the factory owner and workers mercilessly beat Waqas from 10 in the morning, even giving him electric shocks and breaking many of his bones. Despite Waqas's desperate cries to be allowed to see his mother, the assailants refused and continued the cruel assault until he finally passed away around 3 pm.

The Masih family's life has been shattered by this immense tragedy. In addition to grappling with unimaginable grief, they have lost a crucial source of income that helped sustain the impoverished household of seven - three of the children are married and live separately while Waqas, Awais and their parents lived together. Now with Waqas tragically gone, the family is facing even more economic hardship, stated CLASS - Centre for Legal Aid, Assistance and Settlement, an interdenominational organization working for persecuted Christians in Pakistan, in a Press Release issued on 12 June 2024.

An FIR was registered at the Islampura police station on 6 June against the factory owner and workers under sections related to murder. However, over four days later as of June 10th, no arrests had been made in the case and the autopsy report detailing Waqas's injuries had not been issued to the bereaved family, furthering their anguish.

The brutal killing of the innocent Christian teenager at the hands of Muslim factory owners has sparked immense outrage. Nasir Saeed, the Director of CLAAS-UK (Centre for Legal Aid Assistance & Settlement), has voiced grave concerns over the escalating violence, discrimination and false accusations being faced by the beleaguered Christian community in Pakistan.

Saeed highlighted the disturbing pattern of false blasphemy cases being lodged against Christians, including recent allegations made against two Christian women. He vehemently criticized the Pakistani government for failing to ensure the protection, safety and security of the country's Christian minority citizens, leaving them vulnerable to violence, injustice and persecution with impunity.

"It is an extremely tenuous and agonizing situation for Christians throughout Pakistan. False cases of blasphemy continue to be registered against them, and they are living under constant threat and fear for their lives," Saeed stated gravely. He urged the government to ensure impartial and thorough investigations into such crimes against the Christian community and bring the perpetrators , swiftly to justice.

"The Pakistani government must take immediate action to stop these atrocities and ensure the safety and security of Christians in Pakistan. This includes investigating high-level officials and holding them accountable for their complicity in these crimes," Saeed demanded. He has also requested prayers from the international community for an end to the ongoing persecution of Christians in Pakistan.

The tragic death of Waqas Masih has unleashed a towering outcry across Pakistan, as more voices join the chorus demanding justice, accountability and an end to the relentless discrimination and violence being faced by the country's Christian minority. Whether the government will finally take meaningful action remains to be seen.